Historical information

This spoon, made by William Page & Co., is electroplated nickel-silver and was recovered during the late 1960s to early 1970s from an unnamed shipwreck along the coast of Victoria. The shipwrecks in the area range from around the 1840s to the early 1930s. The spoon is part of the John Chance Collection.

This spoon is likely to have been recovered be from the wreck of the Loch Ard (1873-1878) as other cutlery in the Flagstaff Hill’s Shipwreck Collection made by William Page was also recovered from the Loch Ard. The ship’s Manifest included a large quantity of cutlery. Also, other objects in the John Chance Collection were also recovered from wreck of the Loch Ard.

In the mid-1800s electroplated cutlery became a popular substitute for the traditional but more costly sterling silver pieces. The ‘new’ cutlery was made from a more common base metal, such as nickel or a nickel alloy, then electroplated (coated) with a very thin layer of silver. The eating utensils looked like the expensive, pure silver version but eventually, through use and wear, the base metal would show. Some producers warranted their electroplated silver to be ‘white throughout’.

WILLIAM PAGE & CO., BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND -

Although the electroplated cutlery of William Page & Co. was made in Birmingham, it does not include the embossed Birmingham Assay’s mark of an ‘anchor’ because the metal used for the spoons is not silver.

William Page used various Maker’s Marks on his cutlery. The pattern of five embossed marks on this spoon is a typical example, with the embossed sunken crown containing ‘W P’ being the first in the column of symbols.
(1) W P within a raised diamond outline, within a recessed sunken crown
(2) R D within a sunken, rounded square
(4) Fleur de lies within sunken circle (or a wheat sheaf)
(5) ‘Insect or crab’ symbol within sunken oval
(6) ‘B’ within sunken diamond

William Page established his business in 1834, according to the text around a printed Trademark. The firm William Page & Co. began electroplating in 1855, and from 1880 it operated from Cranemore Street, Cattle’s Grove and also at 55 Albion St, Birmingham. The firm registered a new Trademark [‘W P’ within a diamond boarder within a sunken diamond] in 1897; previously the Mark were the initials WP within a crown, but the British legislation prohibited the use of a ‘crown’ mark on electroplated ware in 1895.

In 1936 the firm became William Page & Co. Ltd and became a supplier of spoons to the British Government in 1938, marking its products with the ‘broad arrow’ symbol.

The firm also traded with the brand names Armour, Asrista, Bolivian Silver, Roman Silver, Roumanian Silver, Silverite and Trevor Plate.

Significance

Although this spoon is not linked to a particular shipwreck, it is very likely to have come from the wreck of the Loch Ard; the ship’s Manifest includes a large quantity of cutlery. Regardless, it is recognised as being historically significant as an example of cutlery carried onboard a ship as either personal belongings or cargo and brought into Colonial Victoria in the 19th to early 20th century; through this we have added opportunity to interpret Victoria’s social and historical themes of those times.

The spoon also has significance for its connection with many similar William Page pieces of cutlery in our collection that were recovered from the wreck of the sailing ship Loch Ard (1873-1878). William Page & Co. of Birmingham is one of the renowned 19th century manufacturers and electroplaters and was supplier of spoons to the British Government in 1938.

The spoon has added significance, as it was recovered by John Chance, a diver of wrecks, including the Loch Ard, in Victoria’s coastal waters in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Items that come from several wrecks have since been donated to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection by his family, illustrating this item’s level of historical value.

Physical description

Spoon; tablespoon, electroplate nickel-silver with red-brown and green discolouration. Fiddle design. Five embossed Maker’s Marks on back of handle, arranged in a column from tip towards bowl. Made by William Page and Co., Birmingham. Spoon no longer has its silver plating.

Inscriptions & markings

Embossed Maker Marks
1- ‘W P’, within raised diamond outline, within sunken crown
2- ‘B’ within sunken, rounded square
3- ‘Fleur de lies’ symbol within sunken circle
4- ‘insect-type’ symbol within sunken oval
5- ‘R D’ within sunken diamond